What We Wish We Knew Before RVing Across America – Interview with Alyssa Padgett

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It is guesstimated less than 1% of Americans will visit all 50 USA states before they die. Yet young newlyweds Alyssa and Heath Padgett bought an old RV and hit the road to visit all 50 USA states in ONE year. Yes, it sounds crazy. But they lived to tell the tale (with a few close calls). And now their highly entertaining (and sometimes scary) stories are documented in Alyssa’s new RV travel book: RVing Across America: A Quest to Visit All 50 States

In our interview with Alyssa, she shares some of the things they both learned the hard way, and what they would do differently next time.

5 Things We Wish We Knew... with Alyssa Padgett

Over the years, we’ve asked many full time RVers “What They Wish They Knew” before they started RVing. And like many RV newbies, when Heath and Alyssa hit the road in an old Class C RV, back in 2014, they knew next to nothing about RVs. Here are some memorable lessons from their cross-country adventures!  

Q1: What do you wish you knew then, about buying an RV?

When we bought our RV, we knew literally one thing about RV shopping: water damage is cancer to an RV. Heath’s grandpa shared that wisdom with us and it helped us avoid a couple bad eggs. But the rest of the RV—from what the tanks meant to what a fifth wheel was (does it have five wheels?)—was a mystery.

Most of all, I wish I would’ve known how to tow a car flat behind an RV. We were overwhelmed by the idea of adding a base plate to my car and all the complicated-sounding things we needed to buy, so we opted to just borrow Heath’s grandpa’s tow dolly.

And, well, to put it lightly the car started rolling off said tow dolly on I-10. Life would’ve been a lot easier if we had figured out how flat towing worked first!

And I wish I would’ve heard someone say bigger isn’t always better. Our first rig was 29-feet, and we wished we had gone a little smaller so we could’ve had more access to state and national park campgrounds! Plus we dragged the back bumper of our RV turning into so many grocery store parking lots, I’m sure we did all sorts of damage to the underside of the RV without even knowing.

Q2: Visiting 50 states in one year is pretty ambitious. What do you wish you knew about travel planning and pace?

That trying to visit all 50 states in one year is a terrible idea. It’s not enough time and it forces you to move quickly through gorgeous areas. At first, to stay on pace, we tried to cram in every possible thing. 

But the more we traveled, the more people pointed out great things we missed or added things to our list that didn’t have time for. We instantly started making a “round two” list of places to visit because we didn’t have time to do everything. Plus, traveling to new states every few days and exploring is way more expensive than slow travel. 

We had so much left on our list after visiting all 50 states that we kept RVing full-time in the states for six years, slowly exploring.

Q3: Your goal was for Heath to have a job in all 50 states as you traveled. What do you wish you knew about balancing work while RV traveling?

Spending money on the tools that allow you to have consistent, reliable internet is 100% worth it. Our first year on the road, we used RV park WIFI constantly—and got stuck in a tiny Starbucks parking lot once after mooching their WIFI. It was a point of stress every single day, on top of the fears around starting our first business and making enough to keep traveling.

There are so many gadgets you can use to make internet on the road simple, but since we were broke that first year and trying to find ways to make money while we traveled, we opted for the cheap route. If we had spent even just $100 on gear, we could’ve saved ourselves so much headache. It cost us in daily frustration and probably doubled our actual time spent working while we waited five minutes for web pages to load! 

Moral of the story: Faster internet means less time working and more time outside!

Q4: What’s one place that you wish you had known more about (or better prepared for) before visiting?

Two states I had never visited but always wanted to visit were the Carolinas. We planned to visit mid-November and didn’t get to explore at all because of the weather. There was ice in the North Carolina mountains and we walked the streets of Charleston, South Carolina shivering through a downpour. 

I wish I would’ve known that November is basically winter. In Texas where I grew up, November is when fall starts. No one told me that for much of the country, November brings first snows, cold rains, and grey skies. By November, you should be in the south or else you might end up in 14 degree (F) weather in an ice storm with a completely frozen fresh water tank. It took days before all of the icy slush cleared out of our pipes! We later returned and spent all of May and June in the Carolinas and it was perfect.

Q5: What's your #1 piece of advice for RV newbies wanting to hit the road in an RV?

When we decided to start RVing, we were two broke college graduates. We had to quit our jobs to travel and had zero prospects for income. But, fortunately, we were young enough to not be afraid of our lack of finances, and foolish enough to be completely committed to this goal to visit all 50 states in a year for our honeymoon.

We’ve been blogging about RVing and travel for eight years now, and I hear stories from people all the time who are dreaming of RV life, but they have debt. Or they have no remote job. Or they have no savings. Or they have no idea what living in an RV is like or how RVs work. That was me.

But as the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

It isn’t good advice for everyone, but if you want to hit the road in an RV and you’re desperate to make it happen, you can figure all that other stuff out as you go. It may mean camping for free in a parking lot, plugging your RV into an open outlet, and blowing all the lights to a baseball stadium (yup). It may mean living without a fridge for a month because the RV fridge died and you can’t afford another one (yup).

But in spite of the many mistakes and challenges RVing across America threw at us, we figured out a way to make this lifestyle happen and we kept on driving.  And only partially to get further away from that baseball stadium before someone found out what we did!

Where to Find RVing Across America: the book?​

Read more about Alyssa and Heath’s travels across America in an RV, in Alyssa’s new book: RVing Across America: A Quest to Visit All 50 US States. You can find it on Amazon, where it is available in paperback, hard cover and digital / Kindle.

RVing Across America is an easy and entertaining read. So kick back, settle in and be prepared to laugh and learn!

Alyssa Padgett

Alyssa Padgett

Alyssa Padgett is the bestselling author of A Beginner's Guide to Living in an RV, and now RVing Across America. After RVing to all 50 states and full-time traveling in the US for years, she and her family are on a mission to RV all over the world. Learn more at their blog www.heathandalyssa.com

Watch their Documentary: Hourly America

Not only did Alyssa and Heath visit all 50 US states in one year, Heath also did an hourly job in every state, and they filmed and edited a documentary. You can watch it for free, on YouTube.

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